BY CURTIS WOODWARD
Hours before kick-off, the Manly Sea Eagles’ social media team uploaded a video of their team riding the bus on the way to Sunshine Coast Stadium. It was the quietest thing you’d ever heard – you could hear a pin drop.
No jokes. No laughs. Nothing.
Alarm bells in itself.
Just prior to the game getting underway, we saw footage of the Melbourne Storm warming up at the southern end of the ground. You couldn’t keep the smiles off their faces.
Harry Grant and Brandon Smith were cackling like hyenas.
Manly were beaten long before the referee blew time-on.
Everything that happened was a nightmare for Des Hasler, the club and its fans.
They had a week to prepare for the Storm onslaught.
A week to come up with plans to combat different situations.
None of it worked.
They never gave themselves a chance.
Melbourne got to do whatever they wanted and the longer it went, the further into the abyss the Eagles went.
Tom Trbojevic is going to win the Dally M Medal but his teammates, especially his halfback and five-eigth did little to help him when the Storm came knocking.
As the minutes ran by, Trbojevic became less of a factor.
The Sea Eagles looked lost at sea.
Little boys against finals assassins.
In the opening minutes, Manly shifted to their right, got lost in their shape yet Cherry-Evans still shovelled the ball to Morgan Harper. While the centre should have swallowed the Steeden, he lost it under pressure. Melbourne’s Smith scooped it up and got the ball away to a flying Isaac Lumelume.
It would set the tone for the rest of the match.
Ken Bromwich rolled over and scored a try.
Within thirteen minutes, and on the last tackle, mind you, Smith went to Christian Welch at the line who dived over.
You don’t bleed tries in the opening twenty minutes of a qualifying final on your own line, on the last tackle, especially when it’s a prop who has had more birthdays than meat pies.
Late in the first half, Tommy Turbo shoved Jason Saab out of a dummy half just to get his hands on the footy.
For all Trbojevic and Manly’s momentum coming into the finals – the Storm may have killed it all.
The Sea Eagles could be out next week going on what they did tonight against Melbourne.
If Craig Bellamy was happy to see Ryan Papenhuyzen find his mojo last weekend – he’d be even happier to see Cameron Munster back to some of his best on Friday evening.
And if there were any other boxes to tick – Justin Olam got a try on full-time.
The PNG Kumuls International had a quiet outing last week.
The Storm in September is the scariest of prospects.
Especially so when they get everything right.
Manly had an opportunity to step up after a golden run of form. Nobody cares what you did in June, July or August if you can’t take it into the playoffs.
They were outplayed by the Storm and themselves long before they got to Bokarina.
Dropped balls, poor passes, cheap penalties.
A horrible night.
The Storm are on their way and whoever plays them next won’t be happy at how easy the Sea Eagles gave it to them.